When you mix the sin of pride with the virtue of humility, you get Marilyn Monroe. At least, that’s what the sisters behind Richmond cafe Monroe believe.
Natasha, Michelle and Monique Moussi are no strangers to the Melbourne cafe scene. Since their father emigrated from Lebanon 50 years ago and opened numerous restaurants with their mother, the sisters and their three other siblings have followed suit.
30 Mill, Morris and Heath and South Melbourne’s Trillium are all on the sisters’ resumes; Monique owns Miss Frank and Meister; and their brother Julien owns Northcote’s Tinker, Elsternwick’s Penta and the recently opened Bentwood.
Monroe, named for the 20th-century Hollywood icon, is different to the sisters’ other ventures, thanks to a concept conceived by designers DKO and Pop & Pac.
Soft pink hues and matte-black furnishings represent humility, and the ombre mirror that takes up the entire left wall of the venue represents pride.
Head chef Kelly McInerney (ex Three Monkeys Place) adds a passion and talent for Asian cuisine, in part due to multiple trips to Thailand over the last decade.
Her menu includes coriander and ginger prawn fritters served with pickled salad, crispy wonton and tangy green nam jim sauce; chilli and coriander scrambled eggs with shallots and charred corn; and a soft-shell crab burger on a charcoal brioche bun.
On the sweeter end, there’s roti with banana and mascarpone, and a smoothie bowl built around maqui, a berry found in the forests of Chile and Argentina.
Smashed avocado and eggs Benedict are also here for those who can’t go past the classics.
Dimattina Coffee is behind Monroe’s house espresso blend, while Proud Mary provides rotating single origins. Batch brew and cold drip are also on the menu.
If you look carefully, linear lines cover the interior, from the wallpaper to the ombre mirror. The lines represent silence, inspired by John Cage’s controversial 4′33″ – a score composed for no instruments at all, simply consisting of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is “performed”.
With high ceilings, exposed piping and what feels like a never-ending space, you can certainly hear the environment at Monroe: the coffee machine’s hum, the clattering of plates, the soft murmur of customers.